Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. The liver is a large organ in the upper right part of the abdomen that has many functions including storing fuel for the body, making bile, making proteins essential to clot the blood, processing many medications and others. Hepatitis can be acute (short-lasting) or chronic (lasting more than six months).
The most common cause of hepatitis is viral: hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and other viruses.
Hepatitis A is acute and is secondary to ingesting something contaminated with the virus.
Hepatitis B is acquired through blood or body fluids. It can be transmitted during sex, or by use of contaminated needles and can also be passed from a pregnant mother to her baby. It can be an acute illness and can develop into a chronic illness.
Hepatitis C is also spread through blood or body fluids. It is more likely to become a chronic illness and cause long-term liver problems.
Hepatitis D is spread in the same way as hepatitis B and hepatitis C. However, it can only affect people who also have been infected with hepatitis B.
Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A. It is also spread through contaminated food and drink, and also usually causes a short-term illness, from which people usually recover fully.
Other etiologies of hepatitis include alcohol, medications like paracetamol, a condition where the body stores too much iron, copper excess in the body, build-up of fat in the liver and autoimmune disease.
Symptoms of hepatitis include abdominal pain, yellow tinge to the skin or eyes, fatigue, poor appetite, nausea and fever.
The treatment depends on the type of hepatitis.